Because the same story may not be posted in two different places, the first two years can be found in the story A Difference in the Family: The Snape Chronicles. The First Year, 1981-1982, is in chapters 21 – 27. The Second Year, 1982-1983, is in chapters 28 – 31.
WARNING! : One of the reviewers has chosen to post a spoiler in the reviews. If you do not wish to know the ending in advance, do not read the reviews.
Severus Snape: The Middle Years – The Third Year, 1983-1984
Monday, August 1, 1983
Packing his Gladstone bag to return to Hogwarts on the first of August was becoming a routine action for Professor Severus Snape. This was now the start of his third year teaching and, despite his continued feeling of being trapped in the job, he was beginning to think of it as at least 'normal.' He'd said his good-byes to Mrs. Hanson, the crowd at the pub, and the clerks at the stores he patronized so now, as he stood prepared to disapparate from the area yard behind his little house in the Pendle district of Lancashire, there was no reason to delay.
Professor Snape did not disapparate. Instead he left his Gladstone bag in the area yard and went back into his house and fixed another cup of tea.
I don't want to go to Hogwarts. I hate Hogwarts. I hate teaching. Why don't I just take off for Mallorca? Bariloche? So what if I don't know how to ski? I can learn. Or Acapulco? Ditto swimming. Anything but Hogwarts.
In the end, it was not what he would face at Hogwarts, but what he would face if he didn't go to Hogwarts, that decided the question. Draining the last cup of tea in his own home for the next four and a half months, Professor Snape returned to the area yard and disapparated.
"Bit late, aren't you?" the familiar gruff voice spoke practically into Snape's ear.
"It's still summer," he replied. "We're not punching a clock yet."
"Me," said Alastor Moody, "I wouldn't want to punch a clock at the best of times. Besides injuring your hand, it's got to do damage to the clock. That could be a whole new reason for going to Azkaban, you know. Damage to ministerial timepieces."
"Did you have another reason for accosting me on a public street?"
"No." Moody grinned a rather predatory grin. "Just a vested interest in whether or not you follow your orders. I'm still waiting to welcome you to a cell in Azkaban. Even if it takes until a certain judge retires, I'll still be waiting. There's a debt yet to be paid."
And with that, Moody disapparated.
His overall mood not improved, Snape made his way toward the Hogwarts gate as quickly as possible. In doing so, he managed to run, literally, into a youngish woman just in front of the Three Broomsticks. Whosoever fault the encounter was, was not important. The lady's bags fell to the ground, spilling clothing on the cobbles.
"I am so sorry," Snape started to say, but the young lady paid him scant attention. Instead she scrambled for her unmentionables and other belongings and crammed them back into her bags. Everything safely again in her control, she marched determinedly for the gates.
"Can I be…" Snape started to say, but there was no one left to talk to. Shrugging to himself, he trailed the woman to the Hogwarts entrance and followed after her once Filch had opened the gates to admit them both.
A teacher, obviously a teacher. But what is she here to teach? There's nothing open but Dark Arts. This can't be the Dark Arts teacher! You don't fight the Dark Arts by retreating, you…
Dumbledore stood at the peak of the hill to welcome the newcomer to the castle. He shook her hand, and even ushered her through the doors. Snape watched from a distance, and had to acknowledge that the new professor must be of some stature to warrant such treatment from Dumbledore.
Once in the castle doors himself, Snape went immediately to his rooms in the dungeons to deposit his bag and begin confirming his inventories. He figured he would find out about the new professor, if it was a new professor, in good time.
'Good time' turned out to be lunch.
Just before noon, Snape made his way out of the dungeons into the entrance hall to greet McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, and the other teachers at Hogwarts. He was actually pleased to see them again, proving that the experience of teaching at Hogwarts was not entirely devoid of personal satisfaction. Professor McGonagall had a special smile, acknowledging their mutual trials of the year before. Professor Flitwick was clearly aching for cribbage. Professor Sprout just grinned in her usual inclusive and all-welcoming way, but even that – or especially that – made Snape feel part of the group.
The group. Not everyone could be a teacher at Hogwarts. It was, in fact, a rather select bunch. Suddenly, with a glance, a nod, a wink, Snape was part of this group, much more than he'd been the year before, and certainly more than the year before that. Part of the group.
The new teacher was not yet part of the group, and Professor Snape was acutely aware of his own role in making her, or making her feel, a part, as he was now a part. He went into the Great Hall for lunch and waited for Dumbledore to make his announcements.
The staff sat around one of the tables in the middle of the Great Hall, the heads of houses at the foot where it was easier for them to discuss house business if necessary, and Dumbledore at the head with the new teacher at his right. She was not, given more time to observe, as young as Snape had originally thought, being of that indeterminate appearance that could be twenty or forty or anything in between. Her skin was pale and soft-looking, her hair very dark, and her eyes large and gently brown. She had an air of sadness, and seemed nervous and out of place.
Dumbledore rose. "Before we begin our meal, I should like to welcome you all back after your holidays. You look rested and ready for another school year. I am pleased to announce that we have a new instructor for the Defense against the Dark Arts class. Let me introduce to you Professor Beatrice Liripipe.
"Professor Liripipe is new to neither the Dark Arts nor to teaching, but she is new to the combination of the two, being unfamiliar with our curriculum. I knew you will all do your best to make her feel welcome and to assist her in her duties. Minerva, you could show her around the castle, and Hagrid can give her a tour of the grounds. Severus, your discipline overlaps the most with Dark Arts, and I am sure you would be able to show her the supply inventories and equipment, and help her order what she needs. Now, let us enjoy this excellent repast."
Food appeared on the table, and general conversation took over as the teachers ate and talked about their activities for the past month. Snape mostly listened, since sitting in your house reading, or doing the grocery shopping, hardly qualified as entertaining.
At the end of lunch, Dumbledore approached with Professor Liripipe. She moved awkwardly, as if unsure how to hold her arms or where to place her feet, and Snape couldn't avoid the thought that she looked like a victim of the dark arts rather than a teacher of the defense against them.
"Beatrice," said Dumbledore, "this young man is Professor Severus Snape, who teaches potions. He also does most of our ordering of supplies since his class is the one in which they are most used. I am sure he will help you determine what you need and assist you in getting it. When might be a convenient time for you, Severus?"
Snape shrugged. "Now is as good a time as any, sir," he replied. "I'm not in the middle of anything pressing, and it would be good to requisition all the supplies at once, both for Potions and Dark Arts."
"Very good! Beatrice has already seen her classroom and her living quarters, so maybe the two of you could go up there and start on the inventories."
As the three started out of the Hall, the wide sleeve of Professor Liripipe's robe caught on a plate and pulled it off the table. She spun to try to catch it, but it crashed to the floor. A soft blush of embarrassment suffused her cheeks, and she raised her hands to either side of her face to cover it.
Dumbledore quickly retrieved the plate. "No harm done, Beatrice. Now, I believe the two of your were going to work on inventories."
Snape and Liripipe crossed the entrance hall to the marble staircase, where Liripipe stumbled and almost fell forward on the steps. Sudden realization made Snape lean forward and say quietly, "You can hold the hem out of the way when you climb stairs, or you can just lift your knees higher when you take each step. Then it won't be a problem."
The huge, liquid brown eyes turned to him. "Thank you," Liripipe said, pulling up the front of the robe with one hand while she held the stair rail with the other. Carefully, but with greater confidence at each step, she managed the rest of the steps without a problem.
This little incident left Snape with a fascinating puzzle to work on. How is it possible that we have a British witch teaching Dark Arts who has never before worn a robe? This, of course was now added to the puzzle that had occurred to him in the Great Hall. If she knows nothing about our curriculum, then she must not have been a student at Hogwarts. So, where did she go to school? Snape loved puzzles, and these two promised to keep him busy for a while.
The Dark Arts classroom was shuttered and dim. "Some of the plants and other specimens need to be kept out of the light," Snape explained, showing Liripipe where they were. "If you want to open the shutters, you'll need to find somewhere else to keep them."
"Oh, no," Liripipe replied, "I like the way it is now. I don't mind the sun from time to time, but I prefer the dimness." Her voice was a surprise, too. Snape had expected a meek, tentative whisper, but not only did she have good volume for teaching, there was an underlying stridency, almost a harshness that balanced her shy appearance and might make it easier for her to control a class.
Together the two of them began looking through the texts, checking what was needed for the lessons, and beginning the inventory of the Dark Arts room.
A few days later, Snape was accosted by Professor Kettleburn as soon as he walked into the Great Hall for breakfast.
"I notice you're still getting that muggle newspaper every morning," he said without preamble.
"The Guardian, yes." Snape replied, but did not elaborate.
"I was wondering if you might let me look at it as well," Kettleburn continued. "I have a sudden desire to familiarize myself somewhat more with the muggle world. That newspaper might be a start. That is, of course, if you don't need it."
"Not at all," Snape said, surprised. "I never keep them. You're welcome to it."
Refusing to rush his morning routine just because of Kettleburn, Snape took his time with both his breakfast and his newspaper. He was just finishing when Professor McGonagall slipped a sheet of parchment in front of him, covering the newspaper page.
"What's this?" Snape asked.
"Incoming first years," McGonagall said. "I thought you might like to see the names of the new students.
Snape glanced down the list, noting several names he was sure would be sorted into Slytherin house. There didn't appear to be any surprises, but a little bell in the back of his head refused to stop ringing. He went back and reviewed the names again, this time more carefully. This time it jumped out at him. Folkenstone.
There's a first year girl named Folkenstone starting in September. Why should that bother me? It didn't take long. Moody. The attack against Moody that cost him his eye. One of the Death Eaters was named Folkenstone. This is probably the same family. Parent in Azkaban and Moody crouching on the doorstep. That's all I need. It's going to be a lovely year. Snape folded up the newspaper, stood, and walked toward the door, handing the newspaper to Kettleburn as he passed.
For some unknown reason, Snape turned just inside the doorway to glance back at the Hall before walking out. Kettleburn had risen and gone further down the table where he sat himself next to Professor Dawson, the Muggle Studies teacher. He was showing her the newspaper, and together they opened it and began to scan the articles.
That's curious. I've never known her to be keen on current events. I wonder… But it was a silly thought. Both Kettleburn and Dawson were married. Still, their heads were very close together over that newspaper…
That afternoon Snape went up to the first floor to see if Professor Liripipe needed anything. She wasn't in her classroom, so Snape continued up to the next floor to the Dark Arts office. At the top of the staircase, he glanced out the window to the lake below.
Professor Liripipe wasn't in her office. She was in the lake. Snape could see her head and shoulders above the surface as she appeared to tread water some distance from the shore. I wonder if she knows about the merpeople and the squid?
Then Liripipe must have kicked strongly, for suddenly she rose straight up out of the water, jackknifed, and dove under, her feet pushing her in an equally straight plunge down into the depths of the lake. Snape's eyes widened in shock, then he turned quickly away and went looking for Dumbledore.
"Swimming?" said Dumbledore, not seeming in the least surprised. "That is hardly a cause for concern Severus. I am certain she is a quite competent swimmer. You need not worry about her."
"It isn't that, headmaster. It's that… well, she needs to be told. About the windows, and the students… and she can't…"
"Cannot what? You really must come out and say what you mean, my dear boy."
"Well, she was… I mean, she wasn't…" Snape was still unable to actually admit to what he'd seen.
Dumbledore peered at the Potions teacher. "Are you blushing?" he asked, but at the same moment realization dawned. "I see. It is good of you to come directly to me. I shall, of course, advise her not to… ahem. I am sure we shall be able to come up with some sort of solution. A bathing costume, I believe it is called. Leave this to me."
"Thank you, sir," said Snape, and hurried down to the dungeons, carefully avoiding the southern windows lest he spy something he was not supposed to look at.
That evening at dinner, Professor Liripipe did not appear at all embarrassed by Snape's presence, and he assumed that Dumbledore had not given her full details about the source of his information. Snape hoped he'd done nothing to force her to curtail her aquatic activities, for aside from the small matter of conventions, she had seemed to be quite an excellent swimmer.
Then suddenly it was the evening of the first of September, and the train was arriving at Hogsmeade station. Hagrid went out to escort the first years to the boats while the heads of houses waited at the top of the hill to ensure the students in the thestral carriages didn't get out of hand. The routine actually felt normal.
For the first time since the summer break had ended for the teachers, Snape found himself back at the high table on the dais where he could watch over Slytherin house. Kettleburn sat next to him and Liripipe farther along, near Dumbledore. The older students settled down, the first years marched in, and the Sorting began. There were no surprises. At the end of the feast, after the prefects took their houses away, Snape joined the other teachers in the staff room. Most of them were staying this night, just to be sure the first day started out well.
"You have to be strict with them," McGonagall was telling Liripipe. "You can ease up later on, once you've established the routine, but you have to be a dragon at the beginning. You don't want them to walk all over you."
Snape moved away, not really wanting to join any particular conversation, but picking up snippets as he passed little groups of teachers.
"…have an excellent chance to win the cup this year…" Sprout was telling Professor Vector, who enjoyed a good game of Quidditch.
"…I hear he's with the exotic disease ward at St. Mungo's. And to think I picked that boy for a total failure in second year, he was so…" This from Professor Flitwick to Madam Pince.
"…may be a lot of promise there, but I don't know if I want to take the chance," Kettleburn was saying. "Not virgin, anyway." Snape's ears were instantly tuned to the conversation, though he kept his back turned.
"Really?" replied Dawson. "I would have thought otherwise. At least that was my impression, but maybe you know better about these things."
"I think we just have to keep watching for a while. It is important not to move too fast. One mistake could ruin everything."
Dawson sighed. "I suppose you're right. It isn't as if we'll have a second shot at it."
The two moved away, leaving Snape puzzling over the tidbits of the exchange he'd just overheard. Ruin what? Second shot at what? He considered the wisdom of trying to follow Kettleburn and Dawson around but gave it up as both prying too much in something that was probably not his business, and in any case too likely to get him in trouble if they noticed. You'll have more of Moody this year, Severus, Snape told himself. You don't need any more enemies.
And then school started in earnest. The next day was Friday, and though the morning was dedicated to first year orientation, the afternoon was Potions with the Slytherin and Gryffindor first years. And an infuriating group of dunderheads they were, with not a single student in the bunch having any background in potions work at all.
What a lovely year this is turning out to be, and it's just the first day!
Evening brought another unpleasant surprise, an owl with a note from Moody. It was short and to the point, reminding Snape that Slytherin house now held a student to whose parents Moody owed a debt. He advised Snape to take care of the child.
So sweet. Perfectly correct on the surface. No one looking at the note would ever suspect the malice behind it. Snape was wondering if this wasn't already shaping up to be his worst year at Hogwarts.
And considering what the last two years had been like, that was saying quite a bit.
On Sunday, Snape suddenly found himself the breakfast partner of Professor McGonagall. "I see you got my changeling," was all she said as she seated herself next to him and reached for the bacon.
"Come again?" replied Snape.
"My changeling. The Gryffindor boy who mysteriously got himself sorted into Slytherin. His parents have been feathering my office with owls since Thursday. Surely you noticed."
Snape hadn't noticed. The only Slytherin names that he reacted to were the children of Death Eaters. If anyone should come with the same last name as one of his old school mates, he would probably notice that. The social pecking order of wizardom was not yet, however, second nature to him. And never will be if I can help it. "What's his name?" he asked McGonagall.
"Pureblood or part-blood?"
"He should be all right. They'll look on him as a heretic to be converted, but at least a socially acceptable heretic. Sort of like Henry IV."
"Come again?" said McGonagall in her turn.
"King of Navarre. A Protestant who became the bloodline heir to the throne of France except he was of the wrong religion. Paris was worth a mass, though, and he converted. He was, in fact, very popular, and his former adherence to the minority religion was never allowed to obscure the fact that he came from the right family. So coming from a Gryffindor family won't be as big an issue as, say, being half-blood or muggle born."
McGonagall peered at Snape closely. "Are we speaking from experience here?"
"We very well may be. Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on him."
Keeping an eye on Paul Hooper was not hard. Too easy, in fact. Master Hooper was a tall, broad boy with sandy hair and a vacuous smile, and he was the biggest dunderhead of the entire multitude of dunderheads in Snape's Potions classes. Snape even approached Dumbledore about the possibility of having the boy tested to find out if he knew how to read. It was that bad.
"How do you start with a potion that requires newt eggs, lizard bile, and dog grass, and end up with adder venom, rose thorns, and the gills of an Amanita muscaria?" Snape asked McGonagall at supper two weeks later. "The boy is a walking disaster area! It gives added meaning to the phrase 'damage control'."
"Now, now. We are talking about a child. A tender, unformed mind and spirit that needs both our guidance and our nurture."
"You're gloating, aren't you? You're sitting there just snickering at me because he's in my house and not yours."
"And loving every second of it."
"I'm going to start tutoring him in Transfiguration."
"I don't wish to offend, laddie, but you were never my best pupil in Transfiguration."
"Exactly! You just wait until you find out the damage he can cause in your classes!"
That was before they discovered that Master Hooper had a genius for practical jokes surpassing any within the living memory of Hogwarts.
"This lesson, as you can see," said Snape as he entered a silent first year classroom, "requires the suckers from the tentacle of a Black Sea octopus…" He paused to look around at the rapt faces. Too rapt. Too charged with mirthful expectation. Snape looked at the table that held the ingredients.
There was no octopus tentacle.
Steady, Severus. They're only eleven years old. Where would you hide an octopus tentacle if you were still eleven years old? Snape looked up at the ceiling. Fascinating how the suckers of even a dead octopus are capable of attaching the tentacle to the stone.
"All right," Snape said icily. "Who did it?"
To their credit, none of the students said anything, though a few of them glanced quickly at Master Hooper.
Snape was beginning to suspect that Paul Hooper had no need of anyone looking out for him.
Then, of course, there was Quidditch. They'd lost Rhonda Shoemaker, who'd graduated and gone on to bigger things, so there was a Chaser to recruit. Plus, Snape insisted that other students could challenge the continuing team members if they thought they could do a better job. Tryouts were held the last week of September, and Rhonda was replaced as Chaser by Polonius Franklin, a boy whose broom skills had suddenly blossomed during second year. Now, as a third year chaser, he was in a position to become one of the mainstays of the team, having five years to play and improve before he graduated.
The rest of the team survived their challenges, Lionel Atherton as Seeker, Richie Gamp as Keeper, David Commyns and Saffron Magee the other two Chasers, and Sergey Duval and Josh Van Zandt the Beaters. Slytherin now had a team most of whose players had been together for a full two years, and the prospects for the cup were improving.
Snape made a point of coming to the first couple of practices just to show that he was interested. It helped encourage the team.
Monday, October 3, 1983
The first Monday in October brought a sudden cold snap. Snape made his way up from the dungeon to find frost on the grass of the lawn at the top of the hill. This probably meant more students staying inside during the day, and correspondingly more supervisory duties. Walking in to breakfast, Snape was already not in a good mood.
Owls arrived at the same time as the food. Insofar as Snape was concerned, this was an insufferable nuisance, and he made a mental note to find out if there was anything corresponding to a Department of Health in the Ministry of Magic. Owls swooping over food couldn't be sanitary.
One large tawny owl swept past the student tables and headed straight to the high table where the teachers sat. It dropped a red envelope in front of Professor Liripipe and then soared to the rafters. Quite naturally, all the teachers turned to look at the unhappy professor, for this first missive that she received as a Hogwarts instructor was very clearly a Howler.
Now, it is a well-known fact that any small, isolated community thrives on prurient gossip about its members. There wasn't a professor at the table who wasn't dying to know what was in that Howler. And yet, as Professor Liripipe reached for the red envelope, something about her movements rang a bell in Snape's brain. She doesn't know what it is!
It was a matter of seconds between the arrival of the owl and the opening of the Howler – no time for anyone to think about warning Liripipe – and then the red message began yelling in an angry male voice:
How could you be so shameless as to abandon us! Is that school more important than your family! The children cry themselves to sleep every night wondering where their mother is! If you had any sense of decency, you would return where you belong – to your husband and your babies who…
And then the Howler was gone as Dumbledore, a furious Dumbledore, shredded it to dust with a wave of his wand.
Professor Liripipe was rigid with shock and pale as a ghost. Dumbledore put an arm around her and helped her to stand, guiding her to the small room to one side of the dais. Liripipe went with him in a daze, hardly seeming to understand where he was leading her.
The Great Hall, which had been shocked into silence by the roars of the Howler, now erupted in comment and conversation. "Whatever was that about?" Kettleburn said to Snape, but Snape didn't answer. He was already on his feet and edging toward the small side chamber. Another bell had started ringing, and Snape had something important to discuss with Dumbledore.
The opportunity for discussion came half an hour later, after Professor Liripipe had recovered sufficiently to go to her rooms and prepare for her classes, the first of which had been canceled anyway to give her a bit more time. Snape cornered Dumbledore on the marble staircase, perfectly willing to let his own students wait five minutes.
"You're sure he's coming back, aren't you?" Snape challenged without preamble.
"Whatever are you talking about, my dear boy?" Dumbledore replied.
"Moriarty. He's coming back. We discussed that when Bella went after the Longbottoms, and now I see you're sure. You're sure you know he's coming back."
"Now what has made you jump to that extraordinary conclusion?"
"Professor Liripipe. You know, I never had the same Dark Arts instructor for two years in a row? Something always happened to them. As if there was a curse on the job. He's gone now, but you think the curse is still there, don't you? Scrimgeour left, and Carmichael left, and you're so sure that anyone you hire will be gone after a year that you're using the job to hide Professor Liripipe from her husband. Next year she won't be here either, an you'll be even more sure."
"Ah, dear, Severus. I think I shall never quite forgive Professor Slughorn for not noticing immediately what a fine brain you have. Yes, I fear that I truly believe that Moriarty is coming back. And if I should come to need your assistance in the future with regard to Professor Liripipe's situation, I trust you will not hold that fact against me."
October quickly became 'Paul Hooper Month.'
The first victim was Professor Sprout, who awoke one morning to find that greenhouse three had been taken over by a goat, and a rather bilious goat at that. The moment she walked through the door, it lowered its head and tried to butt her, sending her scampering for the Great Hall and assistance.
Kettleburn got first refusal rights. "Is it a magical goat?" he asked calmly. "You know, I am the Care of Magical Creatures instructor. If it isn't magical, I suggest you see the gamekeeper."
"Goats ain't game," Hagrid told her. "Goats is domestic. So you see, not my job at all. And it's not 'cause I don't like goats… Well, I don't, but that ain't the reason. Now don't go blubbering on me, Professor. I'd love to help but… well, I warned you when you installed them narrow doors to keep the heat in, I just can't get into greenhouse three. Now you get someone to bring the goat out, and I'll take care of it as a favor. It not being in my job description."
"In order to transform it," said McGonagall, "I'd have to stay inside greenhouse three for, well, too much time really. But I am certain that Severus would adore the opportunity to acquire a bezoar." And she smirked at Snape, who was sitting next to her.
"Are you actually telling me that you want me to kill this goat?" said Snape, fixing a cold eye on McGonagall. "I'm sure that's not Pomona's intent."
"I just want it out of my greenhouse while I still have some plants left," Sprout pleaded. Then a calculating look came into her eyes. "That's where I keep the mandrakes," she added.
Snape was out of his chair and following Sprout from the Hall in an instant. "What do you mean by leaving mandrakes where a goat can get them," he fumed.
"You'd better not be accusing me of putting the goat in there on purpose," she retorted, "or I'll harvest all your betony early."
"Och, laddie, but I would!"
Sprout opened the door of greenhouse three somewhat timidly. The goat came crashing at the door as if attacking Sprout was its defining purpose in life. Behind it the baby mandrakes could be heard wailing in terror. At least they weren't too late. As Snape glanced around for something, anything, that could be used against the goat, he spied the little group of Slytherins watching them from the carriage house. Prominent among them was Hooper. I'm going to hex that little monster, I swear I am.
Snape learned several things that day, first of which was that a goat can charge across a greenhouse faster than you can say 'Petrificus Totalus.' Faster than you can think Petrificus Totalus in fact, at least when you are trying to avoid a goat in close quarters. Second was that half of a Petrificus Totalus spell just makes the goat more irritated and gives you even less time to say or think another spell. Third was that the reputation goats have for chewing on anything is well founded and includes the tips of wands you drop when you haven't said 'Petrificus Totalus' fast enough.
Sprout, of course, was useless because she was laughing too hard, so Snape grabbed her wand and screamed, "Accio!" before his own wand lost a major percentage of its length. No bezoar is worth this.
The audience of Slytherins had by this time been augmented not only by more Slytherins, but by students from other houses. There was a certain amount of surreptitious, but ill-concealed, congratulation of Master Hooper, confirming Snape in the identity of the source of his misery.
Flitwick arrived at this point and suggested that one of them enter the greenhouse to distract the goat while another hit the beast from behind with the Body Bind.
"Great!" said Snape. "You go in, and I'll zap the goat."
"I was thinking more of you, since you're younger and have longer legs. I don't move quite as fast, you know."
"I am not going back into that deathtrap with that demon masquerading as a farm animal," Snape insisted, but he knew that he was already outvoted.
They threw a head of lettuce into the greenhouse to distract the goat, then Snape slipped into the cramped space. Luckily there was a solid table in the center (for demonstrations) that he could keep between himself and the murderous creature. It took some maneuvering, but Snape finally got himself into the back of the greenhouse (not the best place to be under the circumstances) and the goat near the door, glaring at him across the furniture. Flitwick stepped in and immobilized the animal.
"You did that," Snape hissed at Hooper as Sprout transported the immobile goat from the greenhouse.
"Me, sir?" Hooper replied, eyes wide with innocence. "Where would I get a goat?"
Which, considering Hooper couldn't leave Hogwarts and nothing could be magically transported in, was precisely the right question to ask.
The next hit was in mid October, and this time it was Kettleburn. "There you are!" he called as he spied Snape in the Great Hall Saturday morning. "Come quick. I need you."
"Why?" Snape demanded without preamble, unwilling to accept Kettleburn's judgment about anything, especially if it was going to spoil his Saturday.
"It's the clabberts. They've gone crazy and they're tearing the place apart."
"What in the name of Merlin are you doing with clabberts on the grounds!"
"NEWT level class next week. They were delivered last evening."
Snape shrugged. "So they're in a cage. How much damage can crazy clabberts do in a cage?"
"They're not in the cage. They're loose in the lecture room. They managed to pick the lock."
"I," said Snape with considerable dignity, "am not the instructor in charge of magical creatures. I am the Potions instructor. This is not part of my job."
"It is if they've been poisoned."
"Have they gotten out of the lecture room?"
"Not yet, thank goodness."
"Do you keep poisons in the lecture room?"
"Of course not! Do I look like an idiot?"
"Then they haven't been poisoned. And clabberts are no more my job than goats were yours."
"Severus, please! They'll destroy the equipment!"
They got Flitwick to help and made their way upstairs to the Magical Creatures lecture room. The sound of smashing glass and splintering wood could be heard through the door.
"How many are there?" Snape asked Kettleburn, his hand on the latch.
Snape quickly opened the door and slipped inside, closing it behind him. The clabberts had gone wild, careening off the walls, swinging from the chandeliers, tossing books and papers all over the room. Their subtly mottled green skin was suffused with a red underglow, and their movements were jerky and wild. They seemed far more tense than the monkey-like beasts were supposed to be. Snape opened the door and slipped out again.
"It's pharmacological," he said. "You'll have to just immobilize them, then we can run some tests. At least they're not attacking everything that comes through the door."
Flitwick cast the spell, then Kettleburn and Snape restrained the immobile clabberts so that the spell could be lifted. That was when the hard part started.
"We have to collect what!" Kettleburn gasped.
"A urine sample. And if they're immobilized, they can't donate one. So I'll hold one of them, Flitwick will take the spell off, and you collect the sample in this little cup."
The clabbert did not cooperate, and Snape soon found that holding a wild, crazy clabbert was a lot more destructive to his robes than collecting a urine sample would be. Flitwick immobilized the beast again, and Snape and Kettleburn switched places. Suffice it to say that it took a while before they could convince the clabbert that the place he was supposed to urinate was the cup.
After that it was easy. Snape ran his tests in his Potions room and returned to the lecture room with the results. "Your clabberts have been drinking coffee," he said.
"That's not possible," Kettleburn replied.
"Or something similar. Their systems are full of caffeine."
Saturday, October 29, 1983
Then it was the last weekend in October, and time for the first Hogsmeade excursion. Snape had supervisory duty in Hogsmeade, which was fine as long as he got there early enough to find a window spot at the Three Broomsticks where he could watch the street and pick up signs of brewing trouble.
The best part about Hogsmeade duty (which Snape normally loathed) was that Paul Hooper was a first year student and therefore not allowed to go. Aside from Master Hooper's two major excursions into practical jokes, the young man had proven himself a constant irritant in class. Not only did he never study or turn in assignments, which might be called 'doing positive things in a negative way,' he did negative things in a positive way.
Among the negative things that Master Hooper most positively did were
a) make noises in class – whistling, burping, tapping pens on desks, and hawking as if to spit;
b) throw things – wads of paper, quills, carefully hoarded pebbles - Snape hardly dared turn his back;
c) make rude comments about the class and other students – and then blithely assert that Snape was in error in accusing him because he'd never done it;
d) harass other students – by writing in their notebooks, hiding their texts or ingredients, making rude gestures…
Snape was quite frankly surprised that Master Hooper was still among the living, since the teachers were not the only ones who were beginning to hate the sight and sound of him. He now frequently got into situations in which other students told Hooper to shut up, and Snape found himself refereeing a shouting match where more than one student was determined to have the last word.
Never before had Snape hated teaching with such a burning passion.
Today, however, was the Hogsmeade excursion. Today Snape would be rid of Hooper for nearly six blessed hours.
What Snape had forgotten was that Hooper might be replaced by Moody.
Having forgone lunch in order to arrive in Hogsmeade early, Snape was just settling himself at the best next-to-the-window street-watching table in the Three Broomsticks when Moody walked in the door.
"Well, bless me!" Moody exclaimed. "Look who's here! If it isn't my favorite Hogwarts professor! Mind if I sit down with you?"
Which he did before Snape could say anything, thus requiring that the 'Expulsion of Moody' become a public spectacle. Snape sighed and resigned himself to Moody's presence for at least part of the afternoon. How much worse can Moody be than supervising Hooper?
"Just wanted to let you know I was still here," Moody said jovially, clearly pleased by the expression on Snape's face.
"And I would have been devastated if you hadn't dropped in," Snape replied. "I positively live for every opportunity to see your face."
"I knew you couldn't survive without me." Moody let the moments tick by. Then – "I did want to remind you that there was a student in Slytherin house whose welfare is 'of interest' to me."
Snape was instantly recalled to the matter of Sancho Folkenstone and the attack on Moody nearly two years' previously. He hadn't, truth be told, paid as much attention to young Sancho as he might have. Moody's presence was a reminder that the boy was in danger. "You know," he said, "some students benefit by not being overly watched."
"And others by being watched continuously," Moody replied.
"I really think that you should let this one develop on his own, without continual surveillance."
"I think I should keep an eye on him. Can you honestly tell me he's your best pupil?"
No, he wasn't. But Snape was not about to give Moody the satisfaction of telling him that. "Every boy," he said, "has his own potential."
Moody threw back his head and laughed. "You got more stamina than I would have suspected, Professor," he said. "I'll wait and see how long you last."
The not-so-polite conversation was interrupted by loud voices from the street, and a moment later Professor Liripipe darted into the Three Broomsticks as if seeking refuge. Right behind her came a wizard. A wizard who quickly established his credentials. A wizard who was her husband.
There was no need for anyone to tell Snape who the angry wizard was, or the nature of his connection to Professor Liripipe. Snape watched them enter the inn, and he knew. The frightened professor was more timid than Snape's mother, and the wizard wealthier and perhaps more sophisticated than his father, but there was no denying the relationship of abused and abuser.
Snape was on his feet at once, wand in hand, Moody forgotten, the doors in his brain closing down automatically, placing himself where he'd tried to stand so many times as a child to no avail, between the mother and the raging father. Liripipe stopped by the counter of the bar and watched in silence.
"Get the hell out of my way!" the wizard spat at Snape. "You're interfering where you have no right!"
"I think not," Snape replied quietly. "I represent Hogwarts at the moment, and you're assaulting a member of the Hogwarts staff. That not only gives me the right, it gives me considerable scope of action." His wand was up, not quite in the man's face, but a definite threat.
"That's my wife, and this is a domestic matter."
"Violence is never just a domestic matter. I suggest you step back outside."
"Don't tell me what I can or can't do in my own family. You insolent little piece of… I'm going to plaster you all over these walls if you don't stand aside now!"
Moody had risen from his seat and was edging out the half-open door. Snape noted the action, but was too focused on the wizard in front of him to question its import. "I have no way of knowing," Snape said, his voice a touch louder now, "whether it is your habit to follow threats with action. I suggest everyone move away from the center of the room since the shock wave from a shield spell…" Students and other customers began to back quickly away from the two men, some leaving the inn and joining a growing crowd in the street.
Suddenly Snape wasn't alone. Josh Van Zandt slipped in on one side of him, and Sergey Duval on the other, both with wands out. "Need a little backup, Professor?" Sergey asked.
"Thank you," Snape replied, still not taking his eyes off the wizard. "You will do nicely."
The prospect of dueling two large, brawny Quidditch beaters as well as a Professor clearly made the other man pause. He lowered his wand a hair and took a half step backwards. "Three against one…" he began.
"…are eminently good odds from where I'm standing," Snape finished. "Now I suggest…"
What Snape was about to suggest was never spoken, for at that moment Dumbledore entered the Three Broomsticks with Moody right behind.
"Ah," Dumbledore said, "Mr. Liripipe. I had not expected to have the pleasure of your company so soon after the last time. May I enquire why you seem to be threatening a member of my staff and two of my students with your wand?"
"This officious young man is interfering in a discussion between myself and my wife."
"I see. Is it normal for your wife to dash panic-stricken into a public house while she is engaged in conversation with you?"
Mr. Liripipe turned, enraged, but stifled whatever comment he'd been planning to make at the sight of Dumbledore's face. The Headmaster was controlled but angry, the softness of his voice belied by the wrath in his eyes.
"I would suggest," Dumbledore continued, "that you withdraw from this establishment and return home. Professor Liripipe has made it very clear that she does not desire your company. Your presence is acceptable neither in Hogwarts nor in Hogsmeade, since it is evident that you intend to disturb the peace."
"I have rights…"
"Not as many as you believe you do, since harassing Professor Liripipe and threatening Professor Snape are not included among them. Now, Mr. Liripipe, if you would be so kind…" Dumbledore stood aside, leaving passage to the door free.
Mr. Liripipe looked around at the assembled students and residents of the village. He was outnumbered and unwanted. "I bow to force," he said, his lips and nose curling with contempt, "but I won't give up. She's my wife, the mother of my children, and she will come home." With that he stormed from the inn and out into the street, where he disapparated.
"Are you all right, Professor?" Dumbledore said to Liripipe, crossing the common room of the Three Broomsticks to stand next to her, a worried look on his face.
"Oh, yes, sir. I saw him before he came near me, and when I came in here, Professor Snape defended me."
"That was well done, Severus." Dumbledore spoke seriously. "I would suggest, however, that you watch your back when you are outside Hogwarts. Mr. Liripipe has been known to bear grudges."
"Yes, sir," Snape replied. Dumbledore returned with Professor Liripipe to Hogwarts while Snape resumed his place at the windowside table. Moody had left, and Snape saw no more of him that day.
When the Hogsmeade excursion was over, and Snape followed the students back up to the castle for supper, there was a message asking him to go up to Dumbledore's office. The message contained the assurance that Snape would be fed, and there was thus no need to worry about supper.
The repast that greeted Snape was, in fact, splendid. He actually felt guilty for the extra work the kitchen staff had to do. The presence of Professor Liripipe, on the other hand, was no surprise at all. Snape had rather expected her to be there.
"First," said Dumbledore as he seated Snape at a small table and proceeded to load his plate with delectables, "we should like to reiterate our thanks for your most timely intervention this afternoon. What might have been an extremely ugly scene was, thankfully, nipped in the bud."
"It was nothing," Snape murmured, noting that Dumbledore was feeding him avocado salad and truffled risotto, and taking the proffered food as a bribe.
"You will understand that despite the public nature of today's incident, the relationship between Professor Liripipe and her husband remains one of the highest confidentiality."
"Excellent. I knew you would understand."
"I have a question. If it's out of line, I'll withdraw it."
"Ask away, dear boy."
Snape was more reticent than he wanted to be, finding himself hard-pressed to express what he desired to. "My father…" he began, then stopped, then plowed forward. "My father was… not unlike your husband. I… Well, you have children. Are they with him?"
"Yes," Liripipe replied quietly. "They are with him. He cherishes them and protects them. It is only I who…" She paused and glanced at Dumbledore before continuing. "It is in the order of things that if I should leave him, they would follow me. And this he could not bear."
"How old are they?" Snape asked, puzzled.
"The girl is nine, the boy seven."
"And you would get custody?"
"They would follow me."
"Now, Severus." Dumbledore was effectively halting the inquiry. "This afternoon you may have unwittingly placed your self in the line of fire. You also, however, reminded me that of all the members of my staff you are probably in the best position to understand the relationship between Professor Liripipe and her husband on, shall we say, an organic level. You are familiar with the emotional interdependencies it creates and the manipulations that can be effectively employed. Professor Liripipe herself is relatively new to the situation, having only determined to return to… her home this last summer, thus prompting the reactions of Mr. Liripipe that you witnessed today. He will undoubtedly try other tactics, ones which you may recognize easily, having yourself… well, you understand."
"Yes, Headmaster." When Dumbledore did not continue, Snape did. "Why doesn't she… Excuse me, Professor Liripipe… Why don't you just go home?"
Liripipe looked at Dumbledore and shook her head slightly. Dumbledore turned to the great fireplace. "There is something we must find first," he said. "Something without which this whole attempt is in vain and Professor Liripipe will have to return to her husband."
"Can I help?"
"Perhaps. I do not know yet."
Snape thought for a moment. "Is this an unknown thing that has to be discovered, or is it a known thing that's been hidden?"
Dumbledore smiled. "Is the game afoot, Sherlock? I must ask you not to do anything to alert Mr. Liripipe of your knowledge or interest beyond what happened today. He knows she is searching. He assumes I am searching. Beyond that, the wider the search becomes the more likely he will move the thing or destroy it. Above all, we do not want that to happen."
"You won't tell me what it is?"
Dumbledore looked at Liripipe, who again shook her head. "I fear not, Severus."
"Just one more question. What's Mr. Liripipe's first name?"
This time there was no objection. "Polydore," Dumbledore said, and with that Snape left the office heading, naturally, for the library.
It didn't take long. Taking the age of the elder child as a clue, Snape began searching back issues of The Daily Prophet from about ten years earlier. In the issue for July 23, 1973, he found a small notice concerning Polydore Liripipe and his new wife.
WEDDINGS: LIRIPIPE, Polydore. Mr. Polydore Liripipe of the Ministry of Magic, Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, announced that he was married a month ago, while on assignment to Scandinavia and the Northern Isles. He and the new Mrs. (Beatrice) Liripipe have returned to London after a brief honeymoon on the Isle of Skye.
Snape read the announcement several times, trying to discover what about it made the bells ring in his head. Unsuccessful, he searched the gossip columns for the next few weeks and found, in Madame Hopper's Ministry Memos of July 30:
WHIRLWIND WEDDINGS: Who would have thought that after all these years Polydore Liripipe would finally tie the knot? Mr. A-Pox-On-All-Your-Parties landed back in London a week ago with – get this – a blushing bride. And we thought you were doing Ministry business on that expense account, Poly, old boy… Those of you who want to meet the girl who swept our most confirmed old bachelor off his feet had better hurry. Poly (bless his heart) has started dropping hints about her fragile constitution, and moi has deduced that the sweet thing may already be in a family way. Invite them now, ducks, because you may not see a lot of either over the next few months.
Beyond that, Mr. and Mrs. Liripipe appeared to be sublimely unnewsworthy. Snape found nothing else about them in the papers at all except for routine announcements of the birth of a girl named Emara in 1974 and a boy name Marrex in 1976.
The next day, Sunday, Snape went to the Hogwarts archives. There he found that Polydore Liripipe, born in 1931, had entered Hogwarts in September 1942 and graduated in June 1949. His record was good, but not distinguished. No Outstandings in his NEWTs, but Exceeds Expectations in Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, Dark Arts, Potions, and Transfiguration.
Then Snape thought to look for Professor Liripipe's records. That was when the bells rang loud and clear. Search as he might, Snape could find no mention anywhere of the maiden name of Polydore Liripipe's wife, or any indication of where she was from. What kind of wedding announcement gives you no background on the bride?
Snape was stumped, at least temporarily. He knew that Mr. Liripipe had been on a Ministry assignment in Scandinavia and the Northern Isles when he got married. That indicated that Professor Liripipe came from the same area. Snape made a list that included: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Shetlands, the Hebrides (Inner and Outer), and the Orkneys. He left off the Isle of Man as being too far south. After a moment's thought, he specified Skye (the place of the honeymoon), and then added Iceland. It didn't help a lot.
At that point Snape suspended his research, for something larger was looming. The next day, Monday, October 31, was the second anniversary of Lily's death. This time, Snape did not intend to let it slip by without commemoration.
That afternoon, Snape pulled out his Lararium and the framed note from Lily about meeting by the lake, which he placed near the fireplace. In the process he found his New Year's resolutions from two years earlier, and the photos of his parents and grandmothers. What was important, however, was Lily.
At supper, Snape arranged for Flitwick to do his inside rounds and Hagrid to do his outside ones since he didn't want to be interrupted at curfew. He promised both that he would reciprocate, and though both said it wasn't necessary Snape, of course, knew that it was. The important thing was that the evening would not be disturbed. Everything had to be just right, especially since he was not using magic.
Around ten o'clock, Snape checked that the narrow windows near the ceiling of his office were open for proper ventilation, then placed a small ceramic dish lined with pebbles in front of the framed note on the Lararium. On the pebbles he put a little circle of charcoal meant to be used in a thurible. It sputtered and ignited at the first touch of a match. Once the charcoal was hot, Snape put on it incense, then a morsel of bread and a drop of wine as a libation.
As the bread charred to nothing and the smell of incense permeated the office, Snape thought of Lily, of the girl who'd shared their classes, her muggle existence, and his love of space travel, who'd managed to open the doors in his mind as Dumbledore never could, and who'd stormed to his defense against all opposition, including his own. Her falling in love with James Potter had to be the worst moment in Snape's life, since it robbed him of the only friend he had, but he couldn't deny that she'd been happy. Now all he could do was honor her memory.
I swear to you that I had no idea it was you. If I'd had any clue that it was you, I'd have let the Dark Lord kill me that evening when he debriefed me. I'd have barred his way when he went hunting you. I'd have killed Sirius with my own hands before he could betray you. I'd have done anything. But I didn't know it was you. Lily, forgive me.
The charcoal burned out, the fireplace was reduced to embers, and the incense dissipated to a presence on the edge of consciousness. It was midnight. Halloween had begun. Making sure that no dangerous flames were left burning, Snape went to bed.
Monday, October 31, 1983
Halloween day went by smoothly, more so since Paul Hooper was in none of Snape's classes. Even though he was generally inundated by the minutia of the daily routine, Snape nevertheless found odd moments between classes to settle himself and recollect Lily. It was a somber, yet curiously serene day all around.
One jarring note came at lunchtime, and it came from Kettleburn. Settling himself unexpectedly next to Snape, he muttered into Snape's ear, "Can I ask you about a couple of things in confidence?"
"I suppose so," Snape replied, trying not to sound as surprised as he felt. "I hope this doesn't involve criminal activity. I tend to draw the line at being an accessory before, during, or after the fact."
"No, no," Kettleburn insisted. "Strictly on the up-and-up. Just private."
"And why me?"
"Expertise, my boy. Knowledge of the hidden world, if you know what I mean."
"On the nose."
"All right, what did you want to know?"
"Money first. How do you get it and what's it worth?"
"Gringotts will exchange galleons into pounds for you. How much you need depends on what you want to buy."
"What about a place to spend the night?"
"Why not just apparate in and out instead of going to a muggle hotel?"
"Magic is… People can tr… Well, you know…" Kettleburn clearly didn't want to discuss that part of it.
For the rest of the lunch hour, Snape and Kettleburn discussed money, banks, hotels (including registering and the need for suitcases), restaurants, shopping, and public transportation. By the end of the conversation, Snape had gleaned that Kettleburn was planning on spending part of the Christmas break in London with a companion, and that he didn't want to use magic as that was traceable. It was all very hush-hush.
After his last class and before the Halloween feast, Snape returned to his office to perform another small ritual before the lararium. This time he felt Lily's presence more strongly than before, so instead of trying to voice his thoughts he simply let himself exist with them. By the time he had to go to the Great Hall, he was calm and centered.
It was not to last. Students were crowded in the back of the hall staring, pointing, whispering, and… giggling. As he entered and looked to his left, Snape saw why.
Draped from the rafters above the staff table was an enormous banner. It was perfectly positioned so that above each staff member's place was a caricature of the person who usually sat in that chair. Snape's personal portrait was labeled 'Snake,' and showed a long, thin, black serpentine body with what was clearly Snape's face, except his hooked nose had become another snake, and his hair was Medusan vipers. The artist was really quite good.
Dumbledore had become 'Stumblemore' and was shown tripping over his long beard. Sprout was 'Stout,' and by a clever play on words was not only plumper than usually, but was also drunkenly hefting a pint. The teachers were not hard to identify: 'Petalborn' issued from a flowery womb, naked except for diapers; 'Sinister' sported a top hat and thin black mustaches; 'Picknick' was an ant walking away with someone else's lunch. McGonagall fared the worst, perhaps, because she was transformed into 'Belong-to-troll' and was shown locked in a passionate kiss with a mountain troll while sparks shot from the bun at the back of her head.
Snape strode forward, wand upraised, to remove the offending banner, but was stopped in time by Kettleburn. "Don't do it! It's shielded!" he cried, and Snape lowered his wand. "Flitwick tried first," Kettleburn continued, "and they've only just revived him. Luckily Sprout isn't as good at Charms, but she still got quite a shock. I'd hate to see what a rebound would do to you."
"Thank you," Snape said quietly, relieved that he hadn't, after all, used the cutting spell. It wouldn't have been pretty. He looked around. Hooper was in one corner smirking with his buddies. He had to grudgingly admit that shielding a banner against the Hogwarts teachers was not a feat that many first years were capable of. He was beginning to seriously wonder where Hooper had learned all of this.
Needless to say, Dumbledore was – well, not furious. He actually chuckled at the caricature of himself and affected to stumble over his own beard a couple of times in imitation. He was, however, displeased with the caricatures of some of the teachers, especially the implication that Sprout was a drinker (totally not true), and the ribaldry so offensive to someone like McGonagall. For Snape, he had no sympathy whatsoever. He thought Snape needed to learn how to take a joke.
"Look at it from a dispassionate point of view, Severus. What more appropriate jest for the head of Slytherin house than snakes? And classical snakes, to boot? I do believe you are being overly sensitive where you yourself are concerned. Think of poor Minerva. And Professor Liripipe."
Professor Liripipe had been lampooned as 'Littlewife,' with a drawing of her and her much larger husband, recalling what so many of the students had witnessed in Hogsmeade.
"What are you going to do about it?" Snape demanded. He was not, by this time, talking about the banner. Dumbledore had managed to dispose of the banner within two minutes of his own arrival in the Great Hall. No Snape, in his capacity as head of Slytherin house, was talking about Paul Hooper.
"Well, there we are faced with a quandary, Severus. Can you prove that it was, in fact, Hooper? If he is brought here and denies it, what can you offer to refute him? It is not as if you actually saw him put the banner up yourself."
"He's always there watching, trying to see what happens. The other boys congratulate him surreptitiously. It's as if the whole school knows who the culprit is except the teachers. It's one monstrous conspiracy!"
"Then I would suggest interviewing his house mates to see if any of them are willing to be witnesses. If you have no evidence, you have no case."
The interviews didn't go well. It wasn't so much that every student Snape talked to professed not to know the perpetrator of the prank, it was more that he sensed that every student did know and either enjoyed the perplexity of the teachers, or was afraid to reveal Hooper's identity. Snape kept coming up against a brick wall.